Dare to be YOU!
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Room 112

Tami Richards, Contributing Author

he odor accosting my nostrils as I walked by room 112 sent my stomach reeling. It was all I could do to keep my breakfast down. Covering my nose and mouth with my hands, I ran to the hotel office. I shoved open the glass office door causing the bell that hung from the handle to crash against the glass. I stood there breathing in the soothing aroma of fresh brewed coffee and Link bounded from his apartment.

"What are you trying to do, Naomi, bust my bell?" He smiled at me as he snuffed out his cigarette in a dead ivy.

I stood there a few seconds longer, allowing the sharp smell of coffee to overcome the stench pasted inside my nose. "Sorry about the bell Link, but there's something you've got to know about."

"What, Sweetheart, you lost the key to the linen closet again?"

"No, I have all my keys. It's worse than that. I was walking to the utility closet when I noticed an awful smell coming from room 112. It's the same odor I noticed coming from the barn when my grandpa would butcher a cow."

"A bloody carcass, huh?" he said, rolling his eyes. "It's probably just a dead opossum or something. I'll come take a look."

I led the way, at first. Then as we neared the room I slowed my pace and Link took the lead.

"This room hasn't been rented in over a week," I said. "I don't think there's anyone in there".

He gave three sharp raps to the door. "Manager." He turned to me and said, "someone could have broke in." When there was no response from inside the room, he pulled his keys from his baggy green pants and opened the door. The hinges creaked as the door swung open. A powerful blast of the revolting stench rushed out as if it had been trapped inside a vacuum.

The strong odor forced me across the small, deserted parking lot. I tried to get as far away as I could, but since the parking lot is no wider than two small cars, that wasn't far enough. A chain link fence prevented me from backing up any further. Link held his nose as he stood peering into the room.

"What is it?" I said.

Forcing myself to gather all my courage, I walked over to the door of room 112. Holding my sweater over my mouth and nose, I gazed in through the open door. The curtains on the patio doors were shut, but some sunlight still made its way through the thin curtains. The only other light was coming in from the doorway behind me. Nothing looked out of the ordinary from a rented room. The two double beds had the blankets and sheets torn half off. The ashtrays on the nightstand and the desk were overflowing with cigarette butts. A video jacket lay on the desk next to the TV. Nothing unusual, except that the room wasn't rented.

"I'm going to go call the police," Link said. "Don't go in there Naomi." I could hear his plastic soled slippers slapping the pavement as he ran to the office. Some unknown, curious side of me had to see. I needed to know the reason for the awful stench.

I continued into the room. To my left was the sink, brimming with water. Three cans of cheap beer floated motionlessly along the edges, empties lined the vanity. The door to the bathroom hung open about two inches. Flicking on the light above the mirrored sink, I slowly advanced towards the sleeping area.

Boots. I stopped in my tracks and nearly dropped my sweater from my nose. A pair of beaten, leather, men's work boots stuck out, toes up, from between the two beds. Not far, just enough for me to realize that empty boots don't lie that way. The sickening feeling brought on by the rancid smell intensified and I could feel stomach bile rushing my throat. I turned to run back outside. There was no way I could make myself go any further into that room.

The door taunted me. I didn't remember entering so far into the room. It didn't seem that I would make it outside before the contents of my stomach would come rushing forth. Stumbling forward, my head spinning, I fell right into the arms of Link. He grabbed both of my arms and held me up.

His presence, somehow in some strange way, comforted me. I didn't want to be alone with what I had found. Any warm, breathing body would be a comfort. Even being in Link's arms would be better than being alone with a rotting corpse.

"Did you call the police? How long before they arrive?" I said, wiggling free from the hold he had on my arms.

"They weren't sure, you know. They said maybe an hour or two. They told me to shut the room up and stay out of it until they get here."

Something in his voice struck my ear. A calmness in perilous times is easily detected. I backed away from him, suddenly more afraid of him than of the situation in the room. My eyes searched the empty parking lot.

His eyes joined mine in scanning the lot. "It's okay, Naomi. I'm here with you. You don't need to be afraid of anything," he began to creep towards me.

"Stay away, Link. I don't feel well. I think I'm going to throw up."

He inched towards me until he stood about a foot away. The revolting odor from the room was still noticeable, but the breeze coming in the door was strong enough to dilute the pungency. I continued to back into the room.

"I hope you didn't touch anything," he said.

"Just the light switch."

"Then I need you to shut it off."

"I can't take another step in here."

"The police want it left alone. Completely alone. You don't want to be arrested for tampering with evidence, do you?"

I couldn't go further into that room with that body in there. To defy Link would probably mean losing my job and with midterms to study for, I didn't have the time for job hunting. The thought of a police record hanging over my head was too much to take.

"Okay, I'll shut it off."

He followed close behind me as I switched off the light. The room was swallowed by darkness as the door screamed shut behind us. I turned to see Link glaring at me with a crooked, yellow smile. In his hand he held a hunting knife.

"What are you doing?" I said.

He advanced towards me.

"You did this?" I said. "Why?"

"Did you see? I did a perfect job on that guy, you really should look."

"No, I've seen enough. I'm not going to look any closer," I said. I tried to control my fear, but my unsteady voice, teary eyes, trembling hands and wobbly knees exposed everything I was feeling. My eyes would not be averted from the knife he held in his hand.

"Oh, but you must look, Naomi."

I stepped back slowly towards the first bed. He kept coming after me and I continued backwards until he stopped.

"Now look, isn't that the work of a true sportsman?" he said. I didn't want to look, wouldn't look. He lunged at me and grabbed my chin with his left hand, maintaining his grip on the knife in his right. He spun my head around with such force, I thought my neck was breaking as I heard a dull, popping sound.

The man lay between the two beds in pale blue jeans and bare torso. A wide, red line ran from below his belly button up to his Adam's apple. Streaks of dried blood stained his entire stomach. I recognized him as Ned, a regular. He had checked in earlier in the week to room 214, but not without making his usual passes at me first. I had brushed him off, as was the norm between us. It had actually become kind of a game. He'd try to chase me, and I'd outrun him.

"Why did you do that to him?" I said between sobs.

He threw me down on the bed and bared his yellow teeth in a slow grin. "Don't pretend you don't know the answer to that, Naomi. You know perfectly well that Ned had the hots for you. I thought it was disgusting the way he was always pawing all over you."

"It was just a game we played."

"That's what he said too. When I brought him in here to talk to him about it, he got all pissed off and said I was crazy. Well I didn't buy the game claim for one second. I told him to leave his filthy hands off you."

I began to crawl backward along the bed. "It doesn't make any sense," I said. "I didn't feel that way towards him." Then I noticed the title of the video, "Gutting a Deer." I looked back down at Ned and realized why he had been cut wide open from spleen to neck. "You gutted him?"

Just then, my breakfast rushed straight up. I turned my head and out poured the hot, steamy liquid. It flooded the nightstand between the two beds. I saw it stream down and pool in Ned's open, blank eyes. Gasping for air, I scooted up against the headboard and stared Link straight in the eyes.

"It doesn't make sense to you, does it, my naieve little college student?" He stood at the foot of the bed, switching the knife from hand to hand as if keeping rhythm to an unheard song. "It's the waiting that got to me."

"Waiting? Waiting for what?"

"For you to love me. I hate waiting. I get so frustrated. I have to do something with all my pent-up energy. I started with the stray cats that came nosing around here."

"Oh jeez, stray cats?"

"Yeah, but I got bored with cats and when Ned started giving me grief, I went for it."

"What are you going to do now?" My throat was so dry I could hardly squeeze the words out, but I forced myself to say it. Perhaps to keep him talking, not moving. Perhaps as a way to keep myself alive. All I know is that if he stood there talking, he wasn't hurting me.

"I'm not going to wait any longer for you to love me, that's for sure. Besides that, we can't have any witnesses to Ned's untimely death. You're what's next, Sweetheart." His eyes became straight gray slits and his face glistened with sweat.

"No. I won't tell anyone. I'll even help you clean this mess up. I can make this whole room sparkle, you know that. Here, let me show you." I rambled on, attempting to get off the bed as I spoke.

"No, never mind about the mess, I'll get to it later," he said while walking towards me. "I kind of liked cutting up ol' Ned. That video showed me how to cut him open without spilling much blood."

"What if I could learn to love you?"

"No, you'd say anything to save your skin. It's too late to start talking like that. I've got myself all worked up to look inside you. I'm not waiting any longer."

He was nearly on top of me, I could smell his stale, boozy breath even above the odor of poor Ned. He reached for my hair and grabbed a tight handful, turning me around so that my back was against him. He pulled me closer to him as he sat upon the bed and drew the knife up to my neck.

"Come on, Link," I begged. "You don't want to do this."

Hot tears burned down my cheeks. I figured if he was going to kill my anyway, I'd better put up a good fight. Make him work for it. My life may not seem like much to him, but it's all I have. I bent my arm towards my chest and rammed my elbow directly into his solar plexus.

He reeled backward, rolling off the bed and I rolled off the other side, almost landing my feet right on Ned's open chest. I tried to reach the door, but he cut me off, tears running down his splotchy red face.

"You stupid cow," he said. "I'm going to give you a lot of pain for that little maneuver."

"Please, just let me go."

"No way, now I owe you."

He came at me again. I jumped back on the bed and made a last ditch attempt at running around him to the door. He caught my arm and pulled me to him. Gasping for breath, I hit him square across the nose, causing him to release my arm. I kicked his arm that held the knife and the knife when flying, landing by Ned's head. We raced for the knife and I got to it a split second ahead of him.

I gripped my shaking hand around the handle and in a desperate swoop swung my arm around like a propeller and the knife stuck right into his ample gut. I put all my weight into the drag of the knife, slicing through him like he was a choice cut of meat. A heavy red line flowed behind the knifes black handle. His face turned pasty as he fell to his knees, then his side. I stumbled over his limp, moaning body and ran out the door to really call the police.

Fresh air never smelled sweeter.


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